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American Council on Exercise (ACE) announced the results of their independent study evaluating the effectiveness of eight triceps exercises commonly used by people trying to sculpt and tone their arms.
Researchers found that of the exercises tested, triangle push-ups, triceps kickbacks and dips registered the highest levels of muscle activation.
ACE spearheaded the study in response to fitness professionals who reported receiving requests from female clients on ways they can tone their arms, specifically the often hard-to-target triceps.
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“When evaluating the study results, it was imperative to take into consideration which exercises can be performed safely by exercise enthusiasts at any fitness level, and the level of difficulty in maintaining proper form while completing the exercise,” said ACE Chief Science Officer Dr Cedric X Bryant.
“After careful review of the study, ACE recommends triangle push-ups and triceps kickbacks as safe exercises to incorporate into workout routines that focus on toning the arms, and they can effectively help women achieve their fitness goals.”
The study was conducted by a team of exercise scientists from the Exercise and Health Program at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, and was designed to determine which triceps exercises stimulated the muscle the most.
How they ran the triceps tests
A test group of 15 healthy females, ranging in age from 20 to 24, were enlisted, all of whom had prior weight training experience. That qualification was necessary to ensure the use of proper form. Participants were required to abstain from weight training for 48 hours prior to the test period to prevent muscle fatigue.
Researchers began by measuring the maximum amount of weight each subject could use for one repetition while maintaining proper form (one repetition max) for triceps kickbacks, overhead triceps extensions, bar push-downs, rope push-downs, closed-grip bench press and lying barbell triceps extensions. Dips and triangle push-ups, while also evaluated during the study, were excluded from this round as these exercises utilize body weight instead of free weights for resistance.
Once the one repetition max was determined, participants returned for the second day of testing, where they were outfitted with electromagnetic (EMG) electrodes on the triceps to record real-time muscle activity. Participants completed seven repetitions of each of the eight exercises in random order with a five minute rest period between exercises. Subjects lifted 70 percent of their previously determined one repetition max for the bulk of exercises; body weight was used for the dips and triangle push-ups.
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Results calculated from EMG records indicated triangle push-ups registered the most muscle activity among the group. Triceps kickbacks and dips also activated the muscle at higher levels than the remaining exercises. While the bench dip exercise elicited high levels of muscle activation, however, safety concerns exist due to its potential to place excessive force on the shoulder joint.
“Triceps kickbacks and triangle push-ups not only produced high levels of muscle activation, but these exercises can be safely performed by the vast majority of exercisers, require little to no equipment and a relatively short amount of time to produce a positive result when included in a regular fitness routine,” Bryant says. “These exercises are the perfect example of how fitness can be achieved, no matter how limited on time or access to equipment an individual may be.”